At the end of the day, it was all about the dollar and the reason for this morning's stock surge around the globe, as we noted last night, is absurdly delightful: Yellen signaled "weakening world growth" and "less confidence in the renormalization process." In other words, the "bad news is good news" mantra is back front and center.
While the February personal consumption expenditures (aka personal spending) - that all important data about the well-being of the US consumer - was in line with expectations rising 0.1%, it was the January revision that was striking. From a 0.5% increase reported a month ago, it was now revised to a paltry 0.1%. In nominal dollar terms, this means that instead of US consumer spending a whopping $67.5 billion more in January, the increase was a paltry $14.7 billion, a delta of $52.8 billion!
If the dollar’s purchasing power falls much further, the market will expect higher interest rates, so this then becomes the likely outcome. The question will then arise as to whether or not the Fed will dare to raise interest rates sufficiently to stabilise the dollar's purchasing power. If the Fed delays, it could find itself facing a difficult choice. The level of interest rates required to stabilise the dollar’s purchasing power would not be consistent with maintaining the record levels of debt in both government and private sectors.Thirty-six years on it could be another Volcker moment.
The last thing the Fed can bear is for a recession that may be bubbling just under the surface to boil over into full view in the months heading into the election. If that occurs, we all may be seeing a great many press conferences from Mar-a-Lago. That is a development that I’m sure Janet Yellen wants to avoid at all costs.
Simple Janet should have the decency to resign. The Fed’s craven decision last week to punt on interest rate normalization is not merely a reminder that she is clueless and gutless; we already knew that much. Given the overwhelming facts on the ground - 4.9% unemployment, 2.3% core CPI and a 23.7X PE multiple on the S&P 500 - her decision to “pause” after 87 months of ZIRP actually proves she is a blindfolded monetary arsonist - armed, dangerous and lost.
At the same time as the PBOC was cautioning about the dangers of excess debt (just as it injected a record amount of loans into the financial system), China's central bank warned about dangers from a stock market bubble, and perhaps just to assure the bubble gets even bigger, at the same time China eased on margin debt limits, in the process sending Chinese stocks soaring higher by 2.2%, and pushing the Shanghai Composite over 3000 for the first time in months as China now appears set to attempt another housing bubble "soft landing" while at the same time restarting its housing bubble.
Over the past decade, we've been told that inflation has been tame -- actually below the target the Federal Reserve would like to see. But if that's true, then why does the average household find it harder and harder to get by? The ugly reality is that the true annual cost of living is far outpacing the government's reported inflation rate. By nearly 10x in many parts of the country.
It may be option expiration day (always leading to abnormal market activity) but it remains all about the weak dollar, which after crashing in the two days after the Fed's surprisingly dovish statement has put both the ECB and the BOJ in the very awkward position that shortly after both banks have drastically eased, the Euro and the Yen are now trading stronger relative to the dollar versus prior. As DB puts it, "the US Dollar has tumbled in a fairly impressive fashion since the FOMC on Wednesday with the Dollar spot index now down the most over a two-day period since 2009" which naturally hurts those countries who have been rushing to debase their own currencies against the USD.
The FOMC used to say that a hike would be “good news” because it represented great confidence that economic conditions were so good. Now the Fed wants us to believe that their dovish stance is good news as well, because it means greater levels of accommodations. It is a stretch to believe that both can be true. Financial intermediation between savers and investors has hints of trouble due to negative rates. A news story yesterday said that Munich Re is experimenting with storing cash and gold. The time has come to end NIRP and ZIRP, and other forms of aggressive central bank experimentation and the dangerous consequences that come with them. It time they take a giant collective BURP, I mean BIRP (Basic Interest Rate Policy).
The wealth effect was meant as another of Keynes’ proposed “pump priming” methods, but it, too, has failed to materialize like the others (redistribution). If valuations are to return to a more considered level, economically speaking, the liquidations in August and January would be just the start.
In the aftermath of the Fed's surprising dovish announcement, overnight there has been a rather sudden repricing of risk, which has seen European stocks and US equity futures stumble to roughly where they were when the Fed unveiled its dovish surprise, while the dollar collapse has continued, sparking deflationary fears resulting in treasury yields plunging even as gold soars, all hinting at another Fed policy error. So was that it for the Fed's latest intervention "halflife"? We don't know, but we expect much confusion today over whether even the Fed has now run out of dovish ammunition.
Following last month's inflation 'jolt' to the marketplace, Core CPI increased 2.3% YoY in Feb - the biggest jump since October 2008 (led by the biggest monthly surge in apparel prices since 2009). Bond & Stock markets are dropping in the news as it corners The Fed further into a hawkish stance, despite the recessionary warning signals screaming from the manufacturing (and increasingly Services) sector.